It’s been hard for me to accept that I’ve worn my body out, always able to do any job on the ranch, feeling secure with the strength of my arms, back and legs. I’ve been lucky, but my knees, among other things, are gone. In the past 45 years, I’ve probably handled, loaded and fed, 15,000 tons of hay with Robbin’s help, but looking back, it was the 500 tons in 2013 that did the real damage.
It’s been a blessing having Lee Loverin and Terri Blanke feed for the past two seasons, as well as fix and build fence, help gather and work our cattle. They know the ranch and our routine and take it seriously.
Cropped and shot with a Canon 100-400mm zoom, I should have known the girls were separately counting cows and calves to make sure everyone was present and accounted for—it’s part of our job when we feed. But at 300 yards away, I took the photo for a different aesthetic. With the photo enlarged, imagine my pride, and my relief, knowing the girls are getting the job done right, and that the ranch can get along fine without me being a part of every single thing. Now that’s a treat.
Weekly Photo Challenge (2): “Treat”
Enough rain to give the grass a good start in most places, we’re still feeding hay, a treat for these second calvers close to the house. We were especially glad to see this calf on the ground, its mother spending most of the month of August uncomfortably in pain, having difficulty walking with slow, short strides to hay and the water trough. A week or two before it was born, the calf must have shifted within her, as she began getting around again as if nothing was ever wrong.
Ambushed by her calf while on the alfalfa yesterday, this mottled-face Hereford is becoming a little rough-haired, showing the effects of raising a calf. If the calf were thin, we might be concerned and increase the hay, but right now she’s giving all to her calf, taking better care of it than herself—the kind of mothers we want.
The bare south and west slopes struggle as they have dried out since our first good rain on the 18th, but all the weathermen promise another good storm for Monday and Tuesday. With a little luck, we’re near the end of feeding hay as the cows move up into the hills for fresh green grass—a real treat for everyone.
Weekly Photo Challenge (1): “Treat”
We track circles on the same ground
through brush and granite rock,
over mountains and down canyons
patched with spooky skeletons
of trees, broken limbs at their feet.
Last year’s blond and brittle feed
folds into dust under foot, under wheel
into decent firebreaks swirling around us
as we check springs and clean water troughs
measured with our eye. We carry hay,
fat cows come running six to the bale
once a week, fresh calves knocking
at the door of a new and wobbly world—
waiting to inhale one hundred degree heat.
Too soon to rain, we plod like cows
in dusty circles, all soft trails
lead to water and shade, or to the hum
of solar pumps in abandoned wells.
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2015, Ranch Journal
Tagged August, broken limbs, Calves, cows, Drought, granite rock, Greasy Creek, Hay, photographs, poetry, rain, water, weather
Left 100 miles
towards Tonopah, dry hay
WPC(1) — “Rule of Thirds”
Posted in Haiku 2015, Photographs, Poems 2015
Tagged California, Drought, haiku, Hay, photographs, poetry, rain, weather, weekly-photo-challenge
We waited through dry and dusty years
and prayed the only way we knew—
like tithing, throwing hard-bought hay
to the gods on the ground everyday.
Our muttered mantra clunked along
like an old machine, inhaling pauses,
exhaling groans until it came to turn
the earth around with a covering
of iridescent green, teasing the dead
and dying oak trees—like us or like
the cows we raised and had to sell—
with rain and one more promise.
New life lands on the open beam
that holds the roof and sings
in the sudden rain—a black and gold
Oriole on the edge of its Southwest
range—a happy song delivered quickly.
A sign in this downpour, an omen
I am to remember when season’s over
and the grass turns blond and brittle—or
just a promise of weather never normal.
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2014, Ranch Journal
Tagged Blue Oak, cows, Drought, feeding, Greasy Creek, Hay, Live Oak, photographs, poetry, rain, water, weather, wildlife
Psychologically, it’s not been difficult to get back into the feeding routine again, having fed continuously from August to April last season with little rain and less grass. And physically, I’m still in fair shape, but after forty-five years of bucking bales, I tend to roll them, rather than muscle them into place on the feed truck. And due to two years of drought, there’s 40% less cows to feed now.
As they begin to calve and have two mouths to feed, it’s essential that the cows are in good shape so that they will be cycling when we put the bulls out on the 1st of December. We ended last season with more dry feed in our upper granite country than in the clay, but still not enough to sustain a cow with a calf very long without hay. If a cow gets thin going into winter when she burns more calories, it takes more hay to get her to cycle than if we had fed her earlier.
Nobody’s starving, but after the last two years, just the sound of the diesel engine brings them to the feed truck. It was a little cooler yesterday, about 85° when we headed up into Greasy Creek, feeding the girls in Belle Point along the way. By the time we got to Greasy Cove the cows were shaded-up on the edge of a near-empty Lake Kaweah, about the only water they have to drink. We can’t take the hay to them, so they have to chug up the hill out of lake bottom to get hay. We didn’t have all the cattle, but left enough on the ground that the rest will get some.
Despite cooler nights and shorter days, stockwater is still an issue as the pond at Ragle Springs is now dry, though the spring is running enough to support a few head. We’re watching the weather hopefully, knowing that we will need near-perfect conditions get a decent feed year: early slow rains to get the grass started well-enough to hold moisture and keep our dry slopes from washing away.
Pole barn full of relief
and distant hope
not to have to feed it all.